Punjab Grill was established in 2001 by legendary restaurateur Jiggs Kalra. Although Kalra exited the venture few years back, the gourmet restaurant chain has been expanding steadily. It has since spread to six cities and three international destinations, and is planning to add four more by the end of this year. The arrival of this iconic brand was awaited with bated breath by foodies in Hyderabad, who’ve been thronging to the restaurant in droves since day one. I was invited to a tasting session a few weeks back and was pleasantly surprised to see how packed the restaurant was even on a weekday.
Punjab Grill absolutely nails its branding. Its distinctive lion motif is everywhere – from the massive billboards to the lobby to the plates. The decor is a throwback to the vintage decor of the legendary restaurants of yesteryears as well as Punjabi Bunglows. Vintage elements like faux leather sofas, ornate lamp shades, mirrored walls, wood rafters on the ceiling,and cement tiles on the floor mimicking terrazzo are blended with a subdued colour palate that reflects modern sensibilities. We were seated in a private dining area that’s right next to the kitchen and offered us a glimpse of the bustling backend.
Punjab Grill promises “to take you on a culinary journey into the grandeur of the undivided Punjab”. The menu includes flavours from both Sikh and Pathan communities and has authentic classics as well as modern takes on the traditional flavours of the region. The first dish offered to us was Veg Kurkuri – a crispy, crunchy desi take on spring rolls. The stuffing is of mushroom, olives, pine nuts, tomatoes and cheese. The Kurkuri came in shot glasses with a sweet dip. This dish didn’t seem very Punjabi to me, but I couldn’t care less about that, because the first dish of the day itself had won me over and set the tone for the night. Next up was Tawa Machhi – spicy sole fish fillets pan fried in mustard oil. One again, an absolute treat that had everyone singing praises. Chaamp Tajdar – a set of lamb chops arranged like a crown, is one of the signature dishes of Punjab Grill. This dish is quite a looker – vibrant reddish hues of the marinade create an eye-catching contrast against the soot black bones. The spicy marinade enriched with clove, cinnamon, and kasturi methi is jam packed with flavour. Although not much of the marinade had seeped into the meat, the marinade itself was so flavourful that this didn’t really detract from the dish. Another favourite of mine was the Salmon Tikka – a very mildly spiced Norwegian Salmon marinated in a blend of dil, fennel, ginger, honey, and mustard.
For the mains, we were offered Amritsari Dal Panjratani, Malai Kofta, Dhaniya Mirch Da Kukkad, Murg Makhni, and Meat Punjab Grill. Both the vegetarian dishes were great, but the Dal deserves a special mention for being absolutely spot on. Murg Makhni is what Punjab Grill calls the iconic Butter Chicken. The gravy was creamy, thick, and sweet. While the little bit of extra sweetness might bother some, I enjoyed it. However, I found the excessively dominant flavour of tomatoes a bit disconcerting. The Dhaniya Mirch Da Kukkad is a simple dhaba style thin Chicken gravy, while the Meat Punjab Grill is a rich and luxurious lamb preparation. I loved them both! Punjab Grill has experimented with their rice dishes to satiate Hyderabad’s love for rice. The Chutney Pulao is cooked in a coriander chutney and stood out because of its novelty rather than the taste. However, the saffron infused vegetarian Tarkari Kesari Biryani was among the best vegetarian Biryanis that I’ve tasted. This dish is a must order if you’re a vegetarian.
For the final course, we were offered Paneer Jalebi, Phirni, Lychee ke Tehri, and Dal Pinni. The Dal Pinni is something I’ve not seen in Hyderabad before. It’s a rustic yet opulent dessert – daal laddoos loaded with ghee and nuts. The Paneer Jalebi is a tad different from what you’d usually get in sweet shops – Punjab Grill has tweaked the texture to give it more of a bite. The dessert that stole the show was Lychee ke Tehri – succulent and crunchy slices of Lychee in a delicious rabdi along with a few lotus seeds that imparted even more crunch to this dish. This is a perfect dish to finish off a luxurious and heavy meal – not too sweet and easy on the palate.
I flipped through Punjab Grill’s rather weighty menu and was happy to see a wide range of non-vegetarian options including lobster, crab, and duck meat. While the non-vegetarian dishes of Punjabi cuisine are often more celebrated, Punjab Grill also has quite a bit on offer for vegetarians. The dishes are priced a tad higher than other fine-dine restaurants in Hyderabad, but the portion sizes are good. A meal for two will cost around Rs. 1800, which doesn’t seem too unreasonable considering how good the food was. I walked into Punjab Grill with high expectations, and I was thrilled that the restaurant delivered. The food was quite brilliant. It’s still early days for the restaurant, but if they succeed in being consistent about their quality, I suspect we’d see the lion thriving in Hyderabad.